What is Galvanized Metal?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 20 November 2019
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As a specially coated type of steel, galvanized metal enjoys a great reputation as being an ideal building product to use for any type of structure that is expected to stand for many years. Here are some basics about how galvanized steel is created, as well as how it can be used in various building projects.

Galvanized metal is simply steel in some form that has received a thin coating of zinc oxide. The purpose of the zinc is to protect the steel from elements that normally would lead to oxidation, corrosion and the eventual weakening of the steel. In this sense, the zinc coating acts as what is called a sacrificial anode. In other words, the zinc will protect the steel from corrosion by acting as a barrier between the steel and the corrosive agent, at least until the zinc coating has been completely oxidized. Galvanized metal can be made into supports, girders and even into sheets of metal that can be used in all sorts of construction and building projects.

Galvanized metal is often used in the construction of warships, such as carriers and submarines. The water and salt repellent qualities of the galvanized steel with its solid zinc coating make it the ideal material to use for hulls. When combined with customized paint formulas that are meant to be used with galvanized metal, the end result is a hull that will hold up to a lot of wear and tear.


Galvanization has also allowed the use of steel for building structures that will remain strong for many decades. In fact, when buildings have been razed, there are some instances of the harvested galvanized metal being usable with little or no reapplication of a zinc coating. This has been found to be true even when up to sixty years may have passed.

Painting galvanized metal usually requires making sure the surface of the metal is completely free of any alkaline buildup that may have settled onto the zinc coating. Because of the nature of the coating, oil or alkyd based paints are not recommended for use with galvanized steel. Instead, a metal primer that is made for use with galvanized steel should be applied, then a coat of latex paint. With the primer and a coat of acrylic paint, a topcoat of alkyd paint may be used if the exposure to the elements is going to be low to moderate. In situations where the galvanized metal will experience a high rate of exposure, a topcoat of high performance epoxy paint would yield a superior result.

Galvanized metal has made it possible for humanity to enjoy long lasting shelters, as well as explore the ocean and the ocean floor in perfect safety. There is no doubt that humankind will continue to find ways to utilize this valuable construction tool in new and exciting ways in the years to come.


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Post 19

What is the meaning of GSM in galvanization?

Post 18

I'm wondering how galvanized metal reacts to heat, if used on walls behind wood stoves.

Post 15

What metal cannot be galvanized?

Post 14

You can use galvanized sheet metal to make a planter pot, but I would not recommend it. Even though the main parts of the pot will not rust, any cracks during handling, forming, or exposed edges from shearing, holes drilled, etc will be exposed to localized corrosion. This will be minimal, but still an issue. Also, being in constant contact with the soil (humidity as well as moisture within the soil) will be the same as in contact with an electrolyte. This will cause the galvanization to break down at a very fast rate. You also should be mildly concerned with zinc toxicity (very rare but still a notable concern)

Second to all of the issues with using a galvanized

container, I think you will find that this is one of the more expensive options. A wood planter, or composite type planter would be much more cost effective and would be even more resistant to corrosion. If you are worried about the wood or composite rotting (dry or wet) then buying treated wood would solve that issue. Treated wood contains very small amounts of arsenic, which is only dangerous when heated to a gaseous phase at very specific pH's which typically do not occur naturally.
Post 12

We're wondering if galvanized sheet metal will work as planter boxes without emitting any toxins into the soil?

Post 10

Is it possible to galvanize a car so I don't have to keep replacing them every two years when they rust out?

Post 9

I have a question. Can using a galvanized trash can to keep pet food in be a hazard to my pet?

Post 8

What is the design on galvanized metal called?

Post 5

Can galvanizing be processed using tin?

Post 4

I am doing research on different kind of silos. What is the galvanization thickness affect on steel plates used?

Post 3

If galvanizing is coating a steel with thin layer of zinc it means only two surfaces are protected in sheet metal. If the part made as a blank from galvanized sheet metal how effective the part protection? Does it mean that cut edges are exposed to the corrosive agent?

Post 2

Find out what type of protective coating, if any, is on the axles and other components made with galvanized metal. Once you know that, it is easier to select cleansers that won't damage the coating.

Post 1

I have a boat trailer and it has galvanized axles and other components. What is the best method to clean this metal?

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